Thursday, February 28, 2008

A few links for you

"Appetites whetted, Stiglitz and Bilmes dug deeper, and what they have discovered, after months of chasing often deliberately obscured accounts, is that in fact Bush's Iraqi adventure will cost America - just America - a conservatively estimated $3 trillion. The rest of the world, including Britain, will probably account for about the same amount again."

"Soaring prices of staples — which have risen about 75% since 2005, driven by growing demand, rising oil prices and the effects of global warming — have sparked riots in several countries, as people reel from sticker shock and governments scramble to feed their people. Crowds tore through three cities in the West African nation of Burkina Faso late last week, burning government buildings and looting stores; when officials tried to talk peace with one group of protesters, the enraged crowd hurled stones at them. The riots followed similar violent protests over food prices in Senegal and Mauritania earlier this year. And, last October, protesters in India burned hundreds of food-ration stores in West Bengal after stockpiles emptied, leaving thousands of people unfed."

"For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report. Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars. Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34."


  1. Regarding the first paragraph, why not use the capital markets to fund the war, as was proposed so forcefully for the 'broken' social security system in america?

    Have we forgotten the war on social security so soon?

    The basic idea has been germinating for some time. Since the 1960s, economists have described “pension fund capitalism” as pumping labor’s savings into the financial markets to push up stock prices. The policy became explicit in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile under the label “labor capitalism,” and what Margaret Thatcher called “popular capitalism” in Britain after 1979. International money managers, insurance companies, investment bankers and brokerage firms vied with each other to manage these forced savings at commissions that absorb most of the dividend, leaving labor only with the capital gains – or losses.

    The failures that have plagued the privatization of retirement savings since such attempts began in Chile in the mid-1970s have not been accidental. They reflect a strategy designed to benefit the managers of publicly sponsored forced savings. In fact, the management commissions – and prospective trading gains for management’s own accounts – are so large as to exceed the profits made by employers of wage labor. We may be entering a new epoch in which more money can be made by managing labor’s savings than by employing it. At least, that is the essence of the imminent postindustrial, financially engineered world.

    From the always excellent Michael Hudson

    can't resist:
    What has been emerging “within the bosom” of industrial capitalism is not the socialism that Marx expected, nor was the new system well characterized by such terms as “post-industrial society,” “service economy” or “information economy.” Rather, the emerging system is a financial economy. The dynamic that is radically transforming society is not technological engineering to raise productivity and living standards, but financial engineering to increase market prices for “paper wealth,” that is, securitized financial claims on society’s income and assets collateralized for debt.

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  3. No doubt capital markets would love to get their hands on some Pentagon money, but I'm not so sure the folks at Lockheed Martin agree. The US military is the best system evah to turn public funds into private profit: Chalmers Johnson estimates the total prize money at a trillion a year!